The US Senate [official website] on Thursday defeated a resolution [materials] aimed at limiting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] to regulate greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST news archive] under the Clean Air Act [materials]. The measure, introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) [official website], was defeated by a vote of 53 to 47 with six Democratic senators joining the Republican caucus in supporting the measure. President Barack Obama [official website] opposed the resolution [statement] and had previously threatened to veto the measure if passed. Supporters of the resolution contend that Congress, and not the EPA, should have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions [AP report]. They also argue that the announced EPA regulations [materials] would harm the economy. Under the announced regulations, new stationary sources of pollution, such as oil refineries and power plants, would be required to use the best available technology in order to minimize pollution. Carbon dioxide emissions would also be limited through the use of higher fuel requirement standards on new automobiles. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) [official website] applauded the defeat of the resolution [press release] and also called on the Senate to renew efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. The announced EPA regulations are scheduled to go into effect next year.
The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] affirmed the EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions under the Clear Air Act in its 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report]. In its ruling, the court held that if the EPA could show a link between greenhouse gas emissions and public health and welfare then the act gives it the power to regulate emissions. The EPA announced last December [JURIST report] that it had found that greenhouse gases "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations," and that emissions from motor vehicles contribute to greenhouse gas pollution. The EPA first announced its proposed finding [JURIST report] in April before undertaking a 60-day public comment period. Some have suggested that the EPA findings have allowed Congress to avoid the political fallout [JURIST comment] that could come from passing tough climate legislation.